In the coming weeks state legislators will consider Senate Bill 285, which will end greyhound racing subsidies. By supporting this humane bill, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to provide $15 million in additional funding for vital state programs, while at the same time ending an activity that is cruel and inhumane
Nearly thirty years ago, the legislature legalized slot machines and table games at Mountain State dog tracks. That law created a state mandate for greyhound racing, and also a subsidy program that forces the state to spend roughly $15 million each year on dog racing, money that comes from unrelated slot machine profits.
Greyhound breeders don’t want to admit this is a subsidy, but that’s exactly what it is. According to the Cambridge Dictionary the term subsidy is defined as “money given as part of the cost of something to help or encourage it to happen.” In this case, unrelated gambling revenue is being used to prop up greyhound races.
Decades after the subsidy program was created, these facilities have become casinos that happen to have dogs running around in circles, with no one betting on the races. Lawmakers must decide whether they are going to continue to waste $15 million every year on a dying industry, or instead direct those funds to vital state programs like health care, substance abuse treatment, or fixing roads.
Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. According to state records, a racing dog dies every ten days, on average. More than nine thousand greyhound injuries have been reported at these tracks over the past decade, including more than 3,000 dogs that suffered broken bones.
Greyhounds also endure lives of confinement at local racetracks, kept in warehouse style kennels in rows of stacked cages for long hours each day. This is not the way we would treat our own dogs.
Thankfully, there is a ray of hope. Nearly ninety community leaders have announced their opposition to these greyhound subsidies. A broad, bipartisan coalition of veterinarians, editorial boards, elected officials, animal shelters, rescue groups, civic groups, and greyhound adoption organizations all agree that it is time for change.
The effort also has overwhelming support among local voters. According to a recent survey, 81% of voters oppose the dog racing subsidy, including 58% of voters in the Northern Panhandle. Across the state, voters would rather have slot machine proceeds be directed to important state programs.
Everyone knows that greyhound racing is going to end. The only question is how long it will take and how many dogs will suffer in the meantime. In West Virginia, gambling on dog races declined by 34% between 2010 and 2017, and according to track officials 98% of customers at Wheeling predominately bet on casino games, not the races. Just a year ago, Florida citizens voted to outlaw dog racing with a resounding vote of 69% to 31%. Following that vote, West Virginia could soon be the last state to sanction and subsidize an industry that goes against our values.
We recognize that change is difficult, and that’s why Senate Bill 285 includes $3 million in funding for job retraining, and $1 million for greyhound adoption services. If you care about dogs, and are against subsidies for a dying industry, then contact your state lawmakers and ask them to support Senate Bill 285.
This article was written by Greyhound Racing Facts. There website is greyhoundracingfacts.org, their Twitter is @dogracingfacts, and if you feel inclined to donate, you can go to their donation page by clicking here.